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Gathering places
Kitchens designed for families, entertaining



White hot

Tim and Liz Kohler knew that remodeling the kitchen of their 1929 Shorewood home would make the home more functional.

And warm.

During a prior renovation, a previous homeowner had ripped out the radiators in the kitchen and the room had no heat.

Beyond that, the kitchen lacked dining space. "We wanted to have centrally located space where we could all gather, do homework, eat and prepare meals," Kohler says. By removing the wall between the kitchen and dining room and stealing some space from that room, they gained nearly 50 square feet of space for the kitchen.

The Kohlers have two children, Nicholas, 7, and Amelia, who was born in December.

"I didnít realize how much it was going to impact our lives," Liz says. "It is just so much easier cooking and cleaning up."

Study in contrast: Liz Kohler chose a black, white and brown color scheme for the room. "I like the contrast of the darker colors with the white," she says. The cabinets are poplar wood painted white, the countertop is a DuPont Zodiaq solid surface material in cloud white and the island is Zodiaq lunar pearl, which brings in dark brown, black and taupe. The floor tile is a black and brown marble with white swirls.

Taking charge: After receiving bids between $48,000 and $72,000, Kohler decided to act as the general contractor for the project. The space was gutted to the studs and completed in five weeks at just under $25,000, including a new dishwasher and refrigerator.

DIY tip: "Create the basic design yourself," Kohler says. "You know better than anyone else what changes you want in your kitchen. Then buy an hour or two or three from an interior designer and have them poke at your design." Her designer recommended an independent builder who then referred to her subcontractors for the project.

60's update

Though the 1960s kitchen of their Glendale home had been remodeled in the 1980s, Milwaukee Kitchen and Bath owners Paul and Rachel Greenspan wanted to update it to reflect their tastes and needs after they purchased the home 11 years ago.

Their goals were to improve storage and create a better working space for Rachel, the cook of the family. Paul is strictly a grill guy. They have two children, Rebecca, 13, and Avi, 10.

"We have a nice long countertop, which is great for doing prep work," Paul Greenspan says. "Everything flows very well."

In addition, Avi suffers from celiac disease, which prohibits the bodyís autoimmune system from absorbing gluten, so the kitchen was designed with separate cabinets and appliances to avoid cross-contamination of foods in the household.

The center island is topped with granite and the perimeter counters are Corian. "Corian is warmer to the touch, a softer feel than granite," Greenspan says.

The bottom cabinets are maple with a natural stain and the upper a cherry wood with red stain.

Maximizing storage: To accomplish one of the major goals of the remodel, the Greenspans removed soffits and installed wall cabinets that are deeper than standard.

Keeping it clean: The upper cabinets feature perforated aluminum sandwiched between two pieces of glass. "The perforated aluminum disguises whatís in the cabinets so you donít have to worry about keeping everything perfect," Greenspan says; the glass protects the aluminum from dust.

Harmonizing hues: Slate tiles behind the stovetop and the multitoned laminate flooring ties the colors of the room together; the flooring is also used in the adjoining family room. "What we did with both the floor and slate on the walls was more for color transition," Greenspan says. The darker wine tones pull in the red cabinets and the lighter tones go with the maple.

Lighting concept: Due to the narrowness of the space, the Greenspans opted for recessed lighting instead of a combination of pendant and recessed lighting. "We didnít want to break up the line of sight through the kitchen," Greenspan says.

The grass is greener

When the house next door was being put up for sale, Marc Cayle purchased it, hoping to make a few improvements and "flip" the house for a profit.

But once he started knocking down walls, he saw the possibilities of the 1961 Mequon split level. And after the birth of their second child, he realized his family was outgrowing its current house. He convinced wife Linda they should keep the second house for themselves and sell the one in which they were living. "The kicker was that it was right next door," Marc says. "That really made it easier."

The Cayles and their children, Tori, now 7, and Jared, now 3, are enjoying their expanded living quarters, thanks to the work of Olde World Restoration.

The focal point of the entire-house renovation is the expansive kitchen and dining area, which encompasses the former kitchen, living room and dining room.

"There were walls where the island is currently," Cayle says. And to the right of the stairway was a second stairway that led to the basement, which Cayle eliminated. "That gave us a nice spot for the pantry," he says. "It would have been dead space anyway."

In the adjoining dining area is a large table and fireplace, which take the place of a formal dining room. "It winds up absolutely as the gathering place," he says of the new space. "Most of the time people are gathered around the island. Itís difficult to move people to another part of the house," he says. Even the allure of a big-screen TV in the family room isnít enough of a draw, he muses.

Savvy upgrades: Marc Cayle had originally ordered Silestone for the counters and islands, but the retailer couldnít get it at the last minute and offered to replace it with granite at the same price. Likewise, oak floors turned into wide-planked Brazilian cherry when the dealer offered them to him at the price of oak.

DIY tip: "Use the professionals as much as possible," Cayle says, to gather ideas and suggestions for design and materials. "The contractors were very, very helpful in identifying ways to use the space, to improve the flow."

Man of stainless steel

When Mike and Teresa LaRosa were building their Cedarburg log home, Mike was adamant about the look of the kitchen.

"There arenít a lot of men who have a lot to say about the kitchen design," says kitchen and bath designer Chuck Steele with In Sync Designs in Menomonee Falls. But in this case, Mike was heavily involved to ensure the end result would be a functional work space.

"The ultimate goal in designing the kitchen was function," Steele says. "Mike loves good food and likes to cook."

Itís also a kitchen meant for entertaining. Guests in the adjoining family room are welcome in the kitchen, too.

"Because the home is a log home, they wanted to keep that very warm, family style look," Steele says. Cabinets are alder wood stained a warm brown. Glass doors on some of the cabinets help to open up the space. Counter and island surfaces are quartz.

Cook-friendly features: Convenience and accessibility were of primary concern in designing this cookís kitchen. A large pantry area features 12-inch deep shelves, instead of the standard 24-inch deep shelves, so that when Mike reaches in for an item, itís right in front of him.

Shop first, design later: When planning a new kitchen, designer Chuck Steele advises clients to shop for appliances before they begin the design process. "Because there are so many new and different appliances out there, you need to do your appliance shopping first," he says. In the case of the LaRosa kitchen, he says, Mike fell in love with a 5-foot wide refrigerator-freezer, which altered the layout of the kitchen, including moving a wall to accommodate the unit. "Your choices directly impact the placement of the appliances and the cabinets around them," he says.